You’ve probably heard the saying, “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” It reminds us that things we don’t like sometimes happen. We can’t control that. However, we can control how we react to them. So, if we get lemons (something sour that most wouldn’t enjoy eating in their raw form), turn them into lemonade (adapt to the circumstances and make something positive result from them).
There are hundreds of examples of people making the best out of terrible situations. Today I highlight one that has made recent news. Consider the example of Ryan Ferguson. Wrongly accused of murder nearly 10 years ago, Ryan spent much of his time since then in jail. Imagine being imprisoned almost 10 years for a crime you didn’t commit. Talk about some sour lemons life threw Ryan’s way! New evidence (such as the prosecution’s chief witness recanting his testimony) led to an appellate court overturning the original decision, prompting his release. What was Ryan’s attitude towards the things that happened to him? How did he feel about his accusers? We can learn a lot from his reactions.
Learn to Let Go of What’s Lost
Ryan entered prison in 2005, meaning he spent most of his early adult life behind bars. Thus, he never experienced the many situations that shape the average person as a young adult. As he puts it in this interview, he missed his twenties, something he can never have back. Jeanne Sager commented on this aspect of Ryan’s imprisonment. Being behind bars, the prison system made most of his choices for him. He had a set time to wake up and go to sleep, a work assignment, had his meals prepared and a set time to eat, etc. Some might say everyone goes through something similar. After all, you have to get a job where you’re told what to do, and then get up on time to prepare yourself for that job during the week. However, we all make choices in those areas. Ryan had none. Thus, the routine we learn to create Ryan had handed to him. Additionally, the other experiences and related choices one goes through in early adulthood Ryan never faced. In terms of social structure, Ryan was in another world. If you had such a critical part of your formative adult years ripped from you, what would you do? To highlight Ryan’s reaction to what he experienced, Jeanne shared this quote from a CBS interview:
“I know what it is to be a teenager. I don’t know what it is to be an adult in the real world, as nearly a 30-year-old. I look forward to finding myself out and learning what it is I enjoy and what I love about life and finding what my passion is and acting on it.” (Emphasis added)
What a great attitude! Instead of worrying about what was lost, he chose to let that go and embrace the opportunities before him. When we face situations in life, do we do the same? Or do we dwell on our feelings of being treated unfairly and allow them to tether us to past situations we have no hope of changing? Doing the latter prevents future growth. Adopting an attitude similar to Ryan’s allows us to move forward.
Additionally, letting go of what was lost in Ryan’s case helped him to take a positive attitude towards those who caused his imprisonment. It allowed him to harbor no resentment towards his accusers. Charles Erickson, a childhood classmate, claimed (years after the fact) he remembered him and Ryan killing the editor of a Columbia, MO newspaper…remembered through dreams, that is. Erickson later recanted his testimony. How does Ryan feel about Charles? Not only is Ryan free of any animosity, but he maintains Charles could not have committed the crime and deserves a day in court to prove his innocence. Instead of focusing on the action that contributed to his imprisonment, he chooses to see justice served and everyone given a chance to move on with their lives. That’s a very mature approach, one in keeping with the overall positive spirit Ryan displays. In a post on Today’s Manager, Cranston Holden shared the experience of someone who took the opposite approach. Although the circumstances differed, the choice remained the same: get ahead (get on with life) or get even. The woman in Cranston’s story chose getting even over getting ahead, bringing negative consequences to everyone, particularly to herself. What a powerful testimony supporting the benefits that not harboring resentment brings!
Lemons or Lemonade – Which Will You Choose?
Ryan Ferguson is a modern example of letting go of bitterness and resentment. One thing that can help us to do so is learning to make the best of your circumstances. There’s a historical example of someone who, like Ryan, was unjustly imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. Joseph, the 11th son of Jacob, found himself sold into slavery and came under the ownership of an Egyptian named Potiphar, a man of some wealth and position in Egyptian society. Potiphar’s wife accused Joseph of attempted rape. Without any trial, Potiphar threw Joseph into prison. This means that, on top of being made a slave, he was now in prison. Talk about an extreme example of adding insult to injury! With the case of Ryan Ferguson, we know that it is possible to be wrongly imprisoned even in modern times. What would you do under those circumstances?
Joseph chose to make the best of his situation. The account states that, due to his diligence and hard work, the jailer entrusted all prison operations to Joseph (read more about Joseph and others who displayed a similar attitude here). Today, we have examples of former inmates who took advantage of the services available to them in prison and made significant changes in their lives, thus improving their circumstances. Judge Greg Mathis is one of them. His path from jailed street youth to judge to popular TV personality not only affected his life but continues to have positive effects on others, inspirationally and materially. His life story is motivational, and his philanthropic activities continue to benefit many.
We have no control over what happens in life. The one thing we can control is how we react to the situations we face. When life throws you a curve, there are options. You can wallow in self-pity. You can allow your circumstances to control you. Or you can choose to control your responses to those circumstances and make the most of your situation. Those that choose the latter and follow through on their convictions find success. So, lemons or lemonade: which will you choose?
How do you handle difficult circumstances? Would you change the way you’ve handled some situations in the past? What will you do to make the most of your circumstances in the future? Share your thoughts and experiences in the Comments below.
- Business Lessons From “Unlikely” Sources: Joseph (Back-Office Bulletin)
- Ryan Ferguson Update: Missouri attorney general will not re-try man jailed for nearly a decade (newsbobby.wordpress.com)
- When justice falters: Vast damage from Ryan Ferguson prosecution (kansascity.com)
- Ryan Ferguson: “I need to build my life back” (cbsnews.com)
- “When life gives you lemons…” (2guysblog.wordpress.com)